After releasing a $2000 designer bag that had a striking resemblance to Ikea’s shopping bag, Balenciaga revealed their latest fashion accessory that was inspired by garbage: the trash pouch. What sets these luxury trash bags apart from other reputable brands like Glad or Hefty? Rather than plastic, this $1,790 pouch is made from calfskin leather and has a glossy finish. They also come in a few different colors too. When Balenciaga’s newest accessory made its rounds online, it left everyone on the internet scratching their heads.
“Imagine buying a trash bag because it says balenciaga on it” one user posted on Twitter. “What is Balenciaga gonna do next? Bottle up some air and sell it for $999. They’re doing too much with those trash bags,” another user tweeted. Confusion and disbelief was the general consensus for the trash pouch, but others speculated that this was simply a social experiment to see how far people will go to buy designer accessories. But perhaps the reason behind it is much simpler than that. Balenciaga is doing all this on purpose. And these reactions are exactly what they wanted.
This wouldn’t be the first time the fashion house released strange accessories and watched the internet relentlessly ridicule them. Look no further than their T-shirt sewn onto a buttoned dress shirt, sold for $1,290. Or maybe their Croc high heel hybrid, which was met with a similar response to their “T-shirt shirt.” And Balenciaga’s tattered, scuffed Paris sneakers, which would go perfectly with their trash pouch, are yet another example of their unusual luxury accessories.
You may think the fashion brand has completely lost it. But this is intentional. In an interview, Balenciaga’s director Demna Gvasalia said, “I couldn’t miss the opportunity to make the most expensive trash bag in the world, because who doesn’t love a fashion scandal?” This tells us everything we need to know. Polished with the finest dirt and grime, the Paris sneakers that were mocked online became one of their most popular items and were selling fast — all without traditional marketing. Social media became the perfect tool for their ingenious marketing strategy. The more bizarre their releases became, the more attention they received, even if the attention was negative. This idea that all publicity is good publicity can also be seen in other fashion controversies.
Gucci’s Balaclava Jumper, better known as the “Blackface sweater,” was an infamous moment in the luxury brand’s history that led to intense backlash. In 2017, they unveiled a black wool jumper that partially covered the face and mouth with red lips that resembled blackface. Not only did members of the Black community criticize the fashion label’s actions, but prominent Black celebrities like Spike Lee, Russell Simmons, 50 Cent and T.I. also expressed their disappointment. As many called for a boycott of Gucci products and accessories, the brand apologized and pulled the wool sweater from their stores and website. Despite the negative publicity, it placed the fashion powerhouse at the center of attention. Ask yourself about the last time you heard about Gucci or any of its accessories apart from these fleeting moments. This incident, though controversial, put the spotlight on Gucci for the first time in a long time, and for weeks, people were talking about the brand. It goes to show that brands will do just about anything to get attention.
Maybe you’re not convinced. Why would these luxury brands do all this just to get noticed? The real question is, why not? In a social media-centered age where the unusual, bizarre or controversial gain the most views, comments and clicks, people will do anything for a few seconds in the limelight. Enter Bstroy, a streetwear brand that featured school shooting-themed clothing on a New York runway. That’s right. The names of schools like Columbine and Sandy Hook were embroidered on sweatshirts that were riddled with “bullet holes.” And this was all for brand promotion.
Of course, these were met with intense backlash, as many people commented on the designs’ insensitivity to the victims of these tragedies and their families. Though the designer said they intended to bring awareness, people weren’t buying it. Once again, would we have even heard about Bstroy if it weren’t for this controversy? Probably not. This most likely drove traffic to their website or social media, and though their comment sections would be flooded with mounting criticism, they still got the attention they wanted. All publicity is good publicity.
Balenciaga has mastered this ingenious marketing strategy through attention-grabbing. But perhaps there isn’t another person in the world who has mastered the art of attention-grabbing like Kanye West. The Grammy-winning musical artist gets people talking without even trying. Take some of his past fashion shows for his streetwear brand, Yeezy. These shows featured models dressed in mismatched, oversized and torn clothing, which sparked memes online about his collection’s resemblance to the latest season of “The Walking Dead.” Even outfits Kanye has worn captured by paparazzi have gotten him attention, such as his odd, mismatched outfits or comically large boots. Knowing Kanye, these fashion choices were probably intentional. He knows how to market himself and his work. And this is something we’d see in his most recent Yeezy release.
Following a tweet that showed his clothing being sold out of what appeared to be large black garbage bags, Ye’s newest additions to his Yeezy Gap collection trended on social media. “This is how they are selling Yeezy GAP,” the tweet read with a picture of large construction bags stuffed with clothing. “The sales associate said Ye got mad when he saw they had [clothing] on hangers and this is how he wanted it. They won’t help you find ur size too, you just have to just dig through everything.” This was met with confusion and outrage, as some people felt that Kanye’s actions were insensitive and tone deaf. Others reiterated that this was simply a social experiment, similar to how they described Balenciaga’s publicity stunts. Kanye defended his actions and appeared on Fox News to say he was an innovator and he wouldn’t apologize for his creativity. When asked why he wanted his clothing sold in large construction bags, Ye simply said he wanted to challenge conventional fashion norms and thought it would make it easier for people to access.
It would make sense for this situation to be a social experiment, just to see how far people would go to buy designer fashion. After all, this is Kanye West we’re talking about. And it definitely sounds like a Kanye thing to do. However, the rap artist insisted this is how he wanted to do something different. Nothing more, nothing less. And it did its job. The attention from social media and the press generated buzz around Kanye’s latest additions. Most people didn’t even know he would be dropping anything. But as soon as it circulated on the internet, the clothing started selling fast and sold out. No marketing is involved. Just a single tweet and a picture. Social media did the rest. Some people joked Kanye was the person who took the photo and posted it on Twitter. This is further proof that fashion brands don’t have to rely on a marketing team to promote themselves or their product. They just need it to trend online. Balenciaga also just happens to be the brand that Kanye works with for his Yeezy Gap collaboration. Coincidence? I think not.
Kanye and Balenciaga are a match made in heaven. Both know how to get people’s attention and they’ll most likely continue to experiment with unconventional ideas and strange releases to promote their brands. It may just be an ingenious marketing strategy that’s proven efficient that comes with little cost but their reputation.